The End of the Kemalist Affair

August 1, 2011

When was the last time a conservative NATO army pushed out its highest-ranking officers?
By Christopher Hitchens

"To read of the stunning news, of the almost-overnight liquidation of the Ataturkist or secularist military caste, and to try to do so from the standpoint of a seriously secular Turk, is to have a small share in the sense of acute national vertigo that must have accompanied the proclamation of a new system in the second two decades of the 20th century."
Read More (Slate)


Michael Dawson said...

"Yet for decades, Western statecraft has been searching feverishly for another Mustafa Kemal, someone who can jumpstart the modernization of a Muslim community under his own name. For a while, they thought Gamal Abdel Nasser might be the model. Then there was the Shah of Iran."

It seems hard to believe Hitchens has always been this uninformed. "Western statecraft?" Searching for, rather than killing off, secular modernizers? The Shah, deposer of Mossadegh and liquidator of Iran's secular forces, as a good guy?

My guess is this backward revision of actual history is just another necessary adjustment so Hitchens can sleep at night after his conversion to neo-imperialist excuse-making.

Ian Hay said...

I could spend years trying to connect the dots and relate anything in Michael Dawson's comment to anything Hitchens actually said in his piece; even the part that Dawson quoted.

1st Lt. L. Diablo said...

Mike I think you are misreading Christopher-- he is not saying the Shah was a good guy. He is saying that the CIA thought he was useful for their aims; that a relatively secular (read: not Islamic fundamentalist wack-job) guy could be installed and be acceptable to a religious people (like the Turkish General who thwarted 3 xtian armies).

The CIA was wrong, and all those examples that the Htich gave we meant to show how wrong they were.


I share your leftist sympathies bro, but you tend to see everything through this prism and it distorts things a bit. It's how leftists can think letting Saddam continue his evil fascistic reign is somehow a 'left-wing' position; which is something Hitchens (and myself) cannot fathom. I think we should invade all countries with right-wing dictators. I just think we should stop fucking with the leftists (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, See, this is the central difference between what I call real leftists and ersatz liberals. Real ones think using a flawed but mighty state to crush an even worse one is moral; ersatz leftist think all intervention is bad cuz the flawed state in question (the US) is incapable of doing anything ethical. Which is the opposite of thinking-- it's having a ready-made response to everything (read: religious).

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "It seems hard to believe Hitchens has always been this uninformed. "Western statecraft?""

I believe your commment is a misattribution on your part. Please re-read the article. Mr. Hitchens was referring to Western statesmen, as I read it, not to himself.

April said...

My dearest Hitchypoo, how do you keep all this info. in your head? It is quite amazing. I have no idea what you're talking about again, but I just wanted to say hi. MWAH!

Anonymous said...


Reread the passage you quoted in its context. Hitchens himself is not complimenting the Shah, but rather is suggesting that "Western statecraft" once approved of him.

Anonymous said...

What seems hard to believe is that you do not understand that western statesmen's desperation for another Ataturk led very many of them to find Ataturk-like qualities in other Middle Eastern leaders where none actually existed. Far fromn saying the Shah, et al were "good guys", Hitchens is making the point that this wilful and wishful thinking on the part of western leaders was disatrous. This is not a difficult point to comprehend. Then again, someone who is content to fashion brutal cliches along the lines of "how can the imperialist apoologizer sleep at night" does not evince much intellectual candlepower.

Michael Dawson said...

Speaking of misreading, wow!

I put "Western statecraft" in those quote marks because Hitchens before his conversion would never have used that phrase instead of "Western elites" or something similar. As it is, "Western statecraft" is a euphemism at best.

Meanwhile, it is 100 percent false that "Western statecraft" ever selected the Shah because they saw a secular modernizer in him. They chose him because he was willing to depose the true secular modernizer (Mossadegh) in the name of monarchy (hardly a modern principle), and because he would restore US and British domination of Iran's oil industry. This is really quite beyind dispute, as the relevant records are now declassified.

So, if somebody elides this history and writes of the Shah as Hitchens does here, that person is whitewashing both the Shah and "Western statecraft."

Anonymous said...

"Hitchens before his conversion" must explain. Besides at last realizing that who passed for socalists in Britain and America were too emotionally invested in their construct of America as the root of all ills to realize their true enemy, Hitchens has not "converted" at all. Only lazy, thoughtless hacks think otherwise. As for the Shah, your interpretation and attack on Hitchens is only sustainable if Hitchens was arguing that western elites (you can have that cliche too, if you insist) were correct to support the Shah. As it happens, the Shah was a "secular modernizer" in the broadest sense, in that his regime was not self-consciously religious and was self-consciously dedicated to modernizing Iranian economy and culture. The regime was also brutal and undemocratic. Western leaders ignored the brutality in hopes that it might bring modernity. It was naive to do so, and had terrible results for Iran and the region. This is Hitchens simple point, one which you are wilfully misconstruing, thanks to your boring ideological blinkers. The best evidence for these blinkers, besides your litany of thudding cliches, is your inability to take a compliment. What you regard as "elision" of history re Mosssadegh is simply Hitchens taking for granted that anyone with some knowledge of events in the Middle East in the last 60 years knows about the Mossadegh affair, and does not need it explained to him yet again. Hitchens treats his readers like well-informed adults. Too bad so many readers are determined to prove him wrong.

Michael Dawson said...

P.S. "Western statecraft" also "tried" Saddam Hussein for the same reasons. He murdered secular leftists by the raftful, and he made sweetheart deals with "our" oil corporations. His sin was listening to April Glaspie and not respecting our even better ally, the emirs of Kuwait.

Hitchens is full of shit about the intentions and practices of "Western statecraft." He has to lie to himself about this in order to sustain his Breivikian claims about the nature of the "war on terror."

I love Hitchens on religion and the royal family and some other stuff. He's a great mind and great writer. But he is off his rocker on the topic of US foreign policy and behavior.

sasss31 said...

Islam = the root of all evil. People need to judge Ataturk based on the time period he ruled - Ataturk was an amazing ruler and a hero for humanity. He enabled to root out the Islamic influence of Turkey and for Turkey to become secular. Someone similar to him (but not as great but still great) was Reza Shah the Great of Persia (the Shah's father). The fact remains that Islam is like a nasty virus that kills, oppresses, kills, rapes, kills. Nothing positive has ever come from Islam and the existence of Islam in the year 2011 is a disgrace to humanity. Everywhere Islam has gone - it has destroyed once great civilizations and cultures. And I speak as someone who was "born" Muslim and understand the true knowledge and evils of the virus of the Islamic faith and the child molester/pedophile/genocidal maniac they call Muhammad.

Anonymous said...

"Breivikian"...well. Michael Dawson's thoughts about US foreign policy are much closer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's and Ayman Zawahiri's thoughts about US foreign policy than Hitchens' antagonism to religious presumption is to Breivik's violent paranoia regarding Islam. Michael Dawson should be careful. Unless he sees the connection as a compliment, which he just might.

1st Lt. L. Diablo said...

Mike, you are pushing at an open door on the CIA/Iran issue. Maybe because five of us all said you had misread Hitchens for essentially the same reason, you think we all made similar follow-up points.

We did not.

I expressly said that the CIA thought the Shah was "useful" for their own aims (the cynical ones you enumerated) mainly because he was not an Islamic fundamentalist (those guys are hard to control). I believe Hitchens knows this all too well; and that you are reading into his words with squinty eyes hoping for an image that isn't there. "Statecraft" is merely meant to encompass the CIA, State Dept, White House, and other agencies. It's a catch-all-- not a euphemism (in my opinion).

Further, you have seemingly avoided the point I made vis-a-vis your kind of 'leftist' thinking that allows for right-wing states to thrive under our nose as if it were no business of ours that they exist and are both evil and dangerously irrational. Hitchens has made several points about how irrational Saddam was and how perfectly he fit the model of a right-wing fanatic (one that we used to support). See, you can't be pissed about our supporting him (which all of us were-- me, you, Hitchens, Chomsky, et al) and then get pissed cuz we oust his ass. It makes no sense.

We created him-- we had a moral obligation to fuck him up. I cannot imagine how any real leftist thinks otherwise. But I'm one of those gun-toting Che Guevara type lefties so I am a rare/dying breed-- unfortunately the new-style liberal (read: you) who never met a cause he couldn't blog about, whine-online about, or engage in endless debate at parties about but never DO ANYFUCKINGTHING about (this includes all those effete 'protests' you go to as well) is the dominant paradigm.... so to paraphrase Morrison, we got the guns but you got the numbers.

Anyway, I still think you cannot actually think about these points-- you can only react; and I'm sure your response will prove my point. But surprise me! Give a measured and thoughtful rejoinder that might include some signs of self-reflection. I dare you.

VERGES said...

Sadly, we can reconstruct what happens presently by throwing down historical dates going back to wars of cultural division had already had in place since the dawn of man. So what? This is akin to a man pulling out news from a trash can that remained in that trash for hundreds of year. Heart, bloody, dream, celsetial, sublime, visionaries, periphery, prestige, pious many brilliant throw rugs of words that perhaps the most brilliant writer in the world would place for an effective journalistic prose for sensitive and sentimental bullshit readers like myself.

Here is where it gets odd, Professor Hitchens makes no mention of "the only man for the job" political practice. I have had a chance to ask the brain jockey, Professor Hitchens, to read "The Little Green Book" or the "Green Book" by A.R. Khomeini and reflect on what he finds in counterpoint to perhaps the Shah of Iran. How do western and Islamic scholars reflect on not western thought versus and Islamic one but that of a monarchial Caliph versus a revolutionary Imam? Was there a revolution that occurred in the Koran and if so does every idea that goes into journalism regarding of this nature which dates back to the yesteryear of Sufi crusader (because in unbiased history both sides considered themselves as crusaders) Saladin need every point of the historical chillagon of a millenium to understand this idea.

There was only one Nasser, therefore I agree with Professor Hitchens. There was only one Shah of Iran
which again gives me causality to agree with the highly esteemed Professor Hitchens (Thank god I am not paying a thousand dollar a credit hour to say this!). Yes, he mentions Bhutto. There is only one Bhutto.

I don't know if these men were good or bad. I never saw them kiss there children and I never saw them give one order. Those who did may say these men were this or that, but I say this - for the good or bad others believe they did you make no mention of anyone else who could do the job as a good person or bad person.

If you say regarding a bad leader or bad leader there is another fit to do his or her job basically there is a quick understanding this is or isn't the leader for the leadership position. So with respect to the only man for the job understanding, if you were to believe Kissinger was the only man for the job of a certain qualification of the most evil or positive labor ... you mention it.

You mention this is the most evil job but it could only be done by Mr. A. If we had a good person needed for a good position same argument. Even when a bad person enters the labor of a good position or vice versa, one thing is sure. The power source that gave them enough power is the issue not the historical magic carpet ride.

History shows there are always five people or more for the job, sometimes two, sometimes zero. In these cases Professor Hitchens gives the reader fifty points? I admit this is not anything but a one second guess but it would seem there are not one thousand points needed to establish the needed logic of his article.

I have no agenda to sell books though I do respect that which Professor Hitchens has done here. It reminds me of Professor Howard Zinn but without the reasoning of why this happened and the entire notion of cause and effect. In this way of prose perhaps Professor Hitchens is the only one for the job he does.


Anonymous said...

First LT CHAIRBORNE RANGER. You're not getting paid tax money to hide behind a moniker and insult people while in a uniform that hasn't sucked yet. I think you are a leftist for not being a blue collar private and trying to sneak out of doing hard work with young men and women who have to join the armed forces because it is the only American institution that yields open arms to them.

With the debt ceiling - we don't need any more boarding school politicians like yourself who just had a single bar pinned on them. That gives you carte blanche to pretend to know the world?

You failed to mention Chavez got all is training from one of your fellow chairborne ranger officer friends and not just one but many.

So wait, if you are in the business of training people like Chavez, you must be a Lefty trainer right. Wrong. You are a nobody. You are an LT. That is the private ranking of the officer corps. High five for not putting your name up here. First you would have to ask permission from your public affairs officer, then you would be on record for being a self contradictory moron talking from the hip rather than the brain and all the intelligence those few neurons have to offer a comment section of Professor Hitchens.

De Opresso Liber

Michael Dawson said...

"Western leaders ignored the [Shah's] brutality in hopes that it might bring modernity."

That is simply false, as well as euphemistic. Examine the record. They didn't give a crap about "modernization," and still don't. They care about creating and preserving the best possible climate for extraction of resources and wealth from peripheral regions. And the "Western statecrafters" didn't ignore the Shah crimes, they sponsored and facilitated them, and also sat backed and watched the entirely logical and predictable result, which was the radical Islamization of Iranian society.

Diablo, I, like the rest of the sane left, never said it was wrong to encourage democracy in Iraq. In fact, you are the one constructing a straw man here. The question is one of means and methods. Are you proposing it is a principle that those who sponsored murderous dictators are the ones who get to decide what to do with said dictators? Are you endorsing the idea that starting wars without UN authorization or prior attack is defensible?

Warrior, heal thyself.

Michael Dawson said...

Question for you defenders of Hitchens on foreign affairs:

If Western statecraft has been all about modernization, as Hitchens would have it, then why didn't Mossadegh receive full support?

Do tell.

You can't, of course, because there is no possible answer that will hold water.

Western elites are opposed to modernization of the Third World, and always have been, as Hitchens surely still knows, somewhere beneath the rubbish heap he's built up to sustain himself in his betrayals.

Anonymous said...

Mossadegh didn't receive full western support because he flirted with the Soviets. You may not have liked how the Cold War was played and played out, but that's the simple reason.

Radical Islam was the "logical and predictable" result of the Shah's policies. Michel Foucault, among other romantic lefties, would have been astonished.

Anonymous said...

1st Lt L. Diablo, of course the Baathist Party of which Saddam was leader was a socialist party. I assume you meant we should leave alone those socialist dictators that don't lock up, oppress or murder their civilians for holding an opposing view..... oh wait a minute. Cuba does that! Perhaps protection of human rights should not be dependent on whether the offending party is socialist or not.

On another matter, Hitchens' new book is out next month. Can't wait for that!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of any new books by Hitchens. Do you know what the subject is going to be? Or the title?


Christopher reads from Hitch-22: A Memoir